Mom is caregiver and referee between husband and sons


Dear Abby: My husband is 99 percent bed-bound with primary progressive MS. My oldest son is bipolar (he’s off his meds and doing great), and my youngest son has Asperger’s. I know … wow.

My husband refuses to even try to understand the boys. When they have behavior problems, he tells them if he could, he would backhand them. Great parenting, huh? But at the same time, the boys and I are expected to have our lives revolve around his disability and stop everything when he needs help. His MS is always top priority.

I hate watching him go through his disease, but does that give him a free pass to bully our boys? I realize the boys (especially the younger one) have issues that are difficult to deal with, and I’m not giving them a free pass, either, but I feel like I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. If I support my sons, I’m a bad wife. If I support my husband, I’m a bad mom. And — not to sound selfish — who supports ME?

I’m not really expecting any answers, but needed to vent, for lack of better terminology. I do have a support system of extended family and friends, but sometimes the lack of support inside the house makes me crazy. Any words of wisdom, Abby?

Stretched Thin

In Colorado

Dear Stretched Thin: You have a right to vent. You’re carrying an enormous load on your shoulders right now. I wish you wouldn’t label yourself as a “bad” ANYTHING because you are just a mortal woman who is trying to cope. Your husband is understandably bitter and frustrated and sometimes takes it out on those closest to him — you and the boys. His MS IS top priority because he’s incapacitated and it HAS to be.

Your boys need to understand the importance of not stressing out their father. I’m glad your older son is doing well off medication, IF that’s OK with his doctor. But it’s my understanding that people with a chemical imbalance need to stay on their meds to maintain their equilibrium. As to your younger son, people with Asperger’s may have problems with their social interactions, but they can be taught rules of acceptable behavior. Perhaps it’s time to work a little harder on that.

As to your own needs, believe me, I sympathize. If you need to vent, it’s important for your sanity that you be able to do so. It’s wonderful that you have extended family and friends to support you, but if at all possible, find someone who can offer a respite from your caregiving responsibilities every few weeks.

Dear Abby: My sister and I have settled my mother’s estate except for one item: Mom’s cookbooks. In particular, one book that Mom used regularly and in which she modified recipes. My mother was a phenomenal cook, and this book is a real bone of contention for us all. What should I do?

Lost for Words

Dear Lost for Words: One person can volunteer to be the “family cooks’ librarian” and if anyone wants to prepare a modified recipe, the librarian could scan it or photocopy it and send it. Or, all of the modified recipes could be photocopied at once and distributed to family members who would like to have them. The task shouldn’t be onerous because I doubt your mother modified every recipe in the book.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.